May 19, 2023
I had the opportunity to work remotely, train virtually, and design, develop, and implement large-scale virtual meetings long before COVID required us to do so. For me and the team of trainers I was working with, the Swine Flu was our pandemic that caused a shift to virtual training. After it was over and the company lifted the travel ban, we thought we would return to live training and never see virtual again. As you may guess, that was not the case, much to my chagrin. We continued to use virtual events to train, cross-train, and launch new products or conduct large company reorganization training (one event was over 25 separate rooms running simultaneously with over 1,000 participants in December). Fortunately, I was able to adjust and accept the change, which led me to start Leading Edge Training Solutions to help other companies shift to effective virtual events, especially in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
As I look at the #remotework articles, posts, and videos on all the platforms, they focus on how and why to do it, and many focus on the need for employers to offer it to everyone. As I was reading one of those articles, it hit me, much like being an outside sales representative or any other job where you may only see your boss or coworkers a couple of times a month or less, why is it that we do not think about the fact that remote work may not be for everyone. Some may think it is for them, but their performance says otherwise. Early in my career, I was introduced to one of the many available personality profiling systems. I wish it would have been sooner, but I was able to learn why I wasn’t connecting with some of my clients. Naturally, some people are better at motivating themselves than others, some need the office's energy to keep them focused, and others tend to retract into their shells and avoid contact when working remotely. All of those leanings are fine; they make us who we are, but some don’t necessarily lend to making remote work a good fit for that individual. I have long been a proponent of the idea of the “right person, wrong job fit,” as I think about remote work, I would reword that to the “right person, wrong working environment.” With that being said, sometimes, the person doesn’t even realize that working remotely might not be for them, and that is where coaching and self-reflection are so important.
There are three areas to consider when determining if entirely remote, hybrid, or onsite work is right for you. The first is the individual. What makes that person successful, drives them, and puts them in the correct position to complete their work? Second is their environment, the primary place they will be working remotely. Is this environment conducive to focused work, or can it be set up that way? Third is the infrastructure. Do you have the technical capabilities to work remotely where you plan to work? We will dive into each of these questions next.
Remote work isn’t easy. For many, it takes a new level of self-discipline, focus, and a dedicated plan to keep in touch with the people and departments you typically see daily. When I started my first outside sales role, it was eye-opening how little my manager knew about when I was in the field, my typical day, and how much time I spent with my clients. I needed to be self-motivated and disciplined, two traits that I will admit I needed to develop during college, preparing to be an officer in the Army and during my time in the Army. If you are trying to decide whether remote work, hybrid work, or working at the office is best for you, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Location is key! Is the environment you will be working in conducive to what you need to meet your work goals? Several factors are essential in answering this question. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was no choice. In many cases, you had to work from home. We frequently had unexpected visitors in the background appear at meetings, training events, and webinars as speakers were presenting or participants were asking a question or providing a comment. For me, I had to work through my daughters being home and my two rescue dogs deciding to rough house through my office whenever I was on a meeting, and of course, it had to be right in the line of sight of the camera! Ultimately, I had to move my office to a small garage outside the house to have a quiet environment where I could focus and conduct meetings without distractions. For many, there may be other options. Still, it is important to understand your surroundings and ask the following questions to understand if your environment is conducive to working remotely:
To maintain productivity during your work hours, it is crucial to have a comfortable and conducive environment.
The final piece of the puzzle is your infrastructure, the primary factor being the internet in most cases because most work-from-home employees can do their job on a laptop. Generally speaking, the answer to this question will be yes. At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw many issues when dealing with the internet due to the increased volume of network traffic during the workday, but now that has been largely rectified. Regarding infrastructure, specifically the internet, the key is to have the best possible plan from your internet service provider based on what you need to do. Not everyone’s needs are the same, so it is important to understand what the requirements are for your job. Suppose your primary duties are email, an internal communication portal such as Slack, MS Teams, Zoom One, or something similar, and the occasional video call. In that case, you are at the low end of internet requirements, and 5-10 Mbps download and 3-5 Mbps upload should be sufficient. On the other hand, if you are consistently on video calls and need high-definition video content, you should plan for 10-25 Mbps download and 5-10 Mbps upload speeds. Finally, if you are in a creative role where you’re doing frequent video calls demonstrating content, training, or need to upload large files, then the recommendation would be to have greater than 25 Mbps download and greater than 10 Mbps upload. One key consideration is how many people will be using the internet simultaneously and what they will be doing. Residential internet is a sum of all parts, not just what you do individually. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
It is safe to say that working in the office will not return to pre-pandemic levels, so working remotely will continue to be expected. That is for the better in the grand scheme of things, my entire team works remotely, and I have worked from home since 2010, but we still need to remember that working from home is not suitable for everyone. Managers should be able to provide that feedback to employees, and employees need to be prepared to work in the office on a full-time or hybrid basis if asked. The most important lesson is that we, as employees, must be willing to objectively assess ourselves by asking the questions in this article and determine the best working method to be the most productive employee possible. Is it at the office, at home, or a hybrid schedule combining the two?